On August 8th, 2011, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) transferred 35 crucial acres to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the US Forest Service. Located in Macon County, North Carolina, Wesser Bald will be utilized as a buffer between ATC lands and private property which is at risk of being developed.
SAHC originally acquired the 35 acres in 2007, with the intent to sell the land to the Forest Service once the Forest Service attained the appropriate funding. Although it has been four years since the original acquisition, the transfer ensures that the ecological standards of Wesser Bald will always be upheld. The addition of this tract, along with an adjoining 42 acres on which SAHC holds a conservation easement, closes a wide gap in a swath of contiguous Forest Service lands that were vulnerable to development.
In the Fall of 2006, Wilderness Society newsletter, Wesser Bald was highlighted as ”at-risk” and a priority for conservation acquisition. After publication of that article, AT enthusiasts and the ATC encouraged SAHC to help conserve this property. Fortunately, SAHC was able capitalize on the opportunity and prevent developers from compromising such a significant piece of land.
With the state of the current economic market, funding for the acquisition of additional land had almost come to a halt. Fortunately, SAHC was able to work in conjunction with generous donors and organizations that continue to make transactions like this possible.
In addition to the extraordinary views, this protected land will contribute a multitude of other benefits to the ecosystems of the Little Tennessee River watershed, the Nantahala National Forest, and the Appalachian Trail Corridor. The land will serve as a catalyst for the protection of significant watersheds, providing a contiguous wildlife corridor that will provide high quality wildlife habitats and ecosystems for rare plants and will assure that the land will stay pristine for generations to come.
SAHC’s long-standing partnerships with the ATC and the Forest Service were instrumental in completing such a crucial transaction. SAHC’s Executive Director, Carl Silverstein says, “we are proud to be working with these partners to add an important sight along the AT that’s visible to a lot of people.”
ATC’s Southern Regional Director, Morgan Sommerville, echoed similar sentiments, while emphasizing the importance of continuing to acquire land to bolster the width of the Appalachian Trail Corridor. Sommerville explains, “ATC really appreciates SAHC’s commitment for this project…because the upper part of Wesser Bald has been on our list to acquire for a long time. We hope to continue these successes further south.”